Natchez loses game, but finds team

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 25, 1999

It was a painful homecoming loss Friday for Natchez Coach Elbert &uot;Mo&uot; Lyles, but in the end, he saw hope.

In the ashes of 24-20 loss to Northwest Rankin, Lyles found the makings of a team.

He issued a challenge to his Bulldog team at halftime. At that point the Bulldogs were behind 24-0.

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&uot;We challenged the guys and asked them if they had what it took to comeback,&uot; Lyles said.

The game was literally a tale of two halves. Northwest Rankin won the first half, and Natchez dominated the second half.

The Cougars jumped out to a 24-0 lead based on the passing of Northwest quarterback, Drew Taylor.

Taylor would turn the Bulldog defense inside out with long scoring passes to Tripp Spruill and Cameron Myers. Myers made a one-handed grab in front Roderick Conner at the 12-yard line. Myers spun to the outside and outran the Bulldog defenders to the goal line.

While the Cougars were having a successful first half, the Natchez offense struggled. The Bulldogs couldn’t gain a first down until the second quarter.

Although quick hits up the middle were working, untimely mistakes and penalties would halt any hope for a sustained drive.

As the crowd settled down from the halftime homecoming festivities, Lyles and coaches prepared to see what the team was made of.

Natchez stopped the Cougars on the first series. At that point, the Bulldogs owned the second half.

Natchez would score 20 unanswered points and fall just short of a victory.

Bulldog quarterback, Donald Butler, would start the scoring for Natchez.

Christopher McDonald followed Butler’s lead and scored on the next series for the Bulldogs. McDonald scored on a 26-yard run.

The Bulldogs’ defense stopped the Cougars near the goal line when Troy Leake intercepted a Taylor pass.

Natchez had cut the Cougar lead in half by the end of the third quarter.

Natchez would score again after Butler hit Edwin Skipper for a 35-yard pass.

After a pass interference call, McDonald scored his second touchdown. The two-point conversion was good, cutting the Cougar lead to four points.

The key play was a third and four at the Cougar 42-yard line.

Cougar quarterback Drew Taylor found Tripp Spruill on a crossing pattern. Spruill was finally brought down inside the Bulldogs’ 10-yard line.

The Cougars ran out the clock and any hope for a victory slowly fell from the Bulldogs’ grasp with each tick of the clock.

After the game, the team gathered at the 50-yard line. As many of his players shed tears at the loss, Lyles saw the birth of a football team.

&uot;Many of these guys are so young that it takes a while to become a team,&uot; Lyles said. &uot;When you start to see tears from the players, it means it hurts really bad. When it hurts that bad, the players have to reach deep for something extra. That is when we become a team.&uot;